Because of the fatal stabbing on the Red Line in August — the first slaying in the history of the subway since it opened in 1993 — there has been some understandable discussion about safety and crime on Metro buses and trains.
I sat down with Commander Patrick J. Jordan on Tuesday to discuss safety on the Metro system. Commander Jordan serves as the Chief of Transit Police for Metro, a job he has held for the past two years.
The good news: crime is very low on the Metro system — certainly lower than in many surrounding communities. Over the past five years, the number of the most serious crimes has gone down and the number of arrests and citations issued is up.
The bad news: the Metro system is not crime-free and it’s not immune to some of the ills of the cities that it serves. That’s just the unfortunate reality.
The Sheriff’s Department is contracted by Metro to oversee security on the agency’s vast bus and train system. As part of that job, the Sheriff’s Department maintains statistics on crime on the Metro system. I’ve posted several pages from the most recent report — from August — above and below. It’s the first time that Metro has published this type of detailed crime statistics.
Some points from my conversation with Commander Jordan:
•There were 1,216 “part one crimes” reported on Metro buses and trains in 2010 or about 2.77 crimes for every million boardings. Part one crimes include homicide, rape/attempted rape, assault, robbery, burglary, grand theft and petty theft. That compares to 2.63 part one crimes per million riders on the MBTA system in Boston in 2010, 6.68 on the Washington WMATA system and 11.03 on the DART system in Dallas. “Your chances of being a victim of violent crime on the transit system are incredibly low,” said Commander Jordan.
•As the charts lower in this post show, most of the crimes on Metro involve theft.
•On the Metro system, the Blue Line and Green Line have the highest part one crime rates — the Blue Line has 14.3 per million riders and the Green Line has 19.7 per million riders. Commander Jordan attributes some of the Blue Line problems to a small group of people — five were arrested last week — who have been stealing electronics and jewelry from riders. On the Green Line, the crime rates are greatly influenced by car thefts and car break-ins in station parking lots, which are owned by Caltrans. Metro is seeking to become owner of those lots in order to beef up security. Here’s a staff report on the issue that is part of the Metro Board’s agenda at its Thursday meeting.
•How to prevent crime? Commander Jordan has several recommendations:
–Many of the crimes reported on Metro invoke thieves snatching-and-grabbing cell phones or jewelry from riders and then running from a rail station into the less-confined environment of the street. Be careful while talking on cell phones near station entrances and either don’t wear valuable jewelry — especially anything with gold — or tuck it under your clothes or put it out of view.
–If you witness a crime, call the Sheriff as soon as possible at 888-950-SAFE (7233) from either a cell phone or Metro emergency phone and try to note exactly when and where a crime occurred. There are cameras in every rail car and station and noting the precise time that a crime happened makes it much easier for the Deputies to determine if the crime was videotaped.
–If you park your car at at Rail or bus station, put valuables in the trunk or lock them in the glove compartment. It may only be a cell phone charger to you, but that can be easily sold quickly for a few dollars on the street — the exact appeal for thieves looking to fund their drug purchases.
•If you want to compare crime rates on Metro versus crime rates for a variety of neighborhoods in Los Angeles County, here is the crime database maintained by the Los Angeles Times using data from the LAPD and Sheriff’s Department. It’s worth noting that crimes are measured differently. In the database, they’re displayed as violent and property crimes per 10,000 people. Example: The database shows that North Hollywood over the past six months had about 143 violent and property crimes combined per 10,000 residents. The Red Line in August had about 10 part one and part two type crimes combined per million boardings. So the Red Line’s crime rate works out to much less than NoHo as a whole. That’s hardly surprising: there’s one Red Line station in NoHo and the city as a whole is a lot, lot larger than one train station.
•One of the advantages of Metro’s proof-of-payment system is that fare checks are fairly common according to the statistics and allow Deputies to have a lot of contact with riders. That accomplishes two goals: 1) Many fare evaders are caught; 2) Some evaders are also caught for other crimes they’ve committed. It’s the broken windows theory of law enforcement: policing the little stuff helps police the big stuff. By the way, based on audits and fare checks by Deputies, Commander Jordan says that about two percent of Metro riders don’t pay fares but that the real number could be slightly higher.
Here are crime statistics for 2011, through August. It is important to note that some of the numbers on the types of crime change over time depending on the outcome of criminal cases in courts. Part two crimes include battery, lesser sex offenses, carrying illegal weapons and some types of narcotics crimes.
Charts showing crimes reported in August on each of Metro’s rail lines, the Orange Line and the bus system are after the jump.